North, south, east or west

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

One day when I was a kid, I picked the Oak Leaves up off the dining room table and read a story that changed my perspective on life and my hometown, which previously had seemed pretty whole, though I was fairly certain I lived in the poor part of town, south of Madison.

The article reported on some sort of government study — yeah, you know, another government study — and the study concluded that "South Oak Park was culturally deprived."

"Culturally deprived?" I said. "What in the name of Jiminy Cricket!" (I was Frank Haley's kid, so we said such things. I was also Mary Haley's kid, so we occasionally said such things as "Holy crap!") But let's go with the quaint version since I was just 11 and this was the mid-'60s, before the revolution came.

How can South Oak Park be culturally deprived? I thought. What does it mean to be culturally deprived? I thought next. We had the Maze Branch Library. And we had the, well, what else did we have? Didn't have the high school, the big library, the bookstores, Rosary College. What is now the high-toned Arts District on Harrison Street was just a bunch of neighborhood shops. The Village Bakery, Frank's Meat Market, Jim & Gloria's Grocerland, The Fry-Er (whole chickens, deep fried), John's Barber Shop (where I saw my first Playboy), Lauterbach's Bootery, the Harrison Shop, Reback's Rexall Pharmacy.

We didn't know yet that Barrie Park was a toxic waste dump. Rehm Park didn't have a pool yet — the powers that be probably thought we'd all drown — and didn't even have a name. We called it South Park because it was, well, south — down where we were all culturally deprived. We drove on Street, worshiped at Church, learned at School and ate at Home.

Dagnabit, we were perfect little idiots. We were culturally deprived and we didn't even know it until the government told us. Isn't that just the way!

This comes to mind because there is a strange little North-South range war busting out over on the comment board at OakPark.com. It is tied to our reporting of the mini-testing brouhaha at Mann School. You know Mann School. Some of our commenters note that it is Oak Park's wealthiest, whitest, highest-testing elementary school. There was actually a comment questioning our coverage and stating it was unlikely any WJ staffers lived in the Mann district. You know, some of us still have some healing to do from that culturally-deprived era, so go easy.

The North-South gibber-jabber dissipated by the late 1960s not because we suddenly had coffee shops and poetry readings in 60304 but rather because everyone became fixated on the East-West divide in the village. Suddenly the issue was whether you lived east or west of Ridgeland because, just sayin', there are black people, lots and lots of black people coming to live east of Ridgeland.

Now if, like me, you lived south of Madison and east of Ridgeland you were in a double whammy: Culturally deprived and making friends with Negroes. It was a lot to deal with for a bunch of people who thought Edgar Rice Burroughs was a better writer than Ernest Hemingway, preferred Gunderson four-squares to Wright's uncomfortable-looking homes and who needed a statue of Jesus on top of their church just to find their way back home.

Can't we all just get along? We have community theater on Harrison Street now. Come visit. And I hear-tell the parents of Mann kids have the same joys and challenges raising them up as the rest of us do.

Contact:
Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

Reader Comments

9 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Less Liberal Than Some (but not most) from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 11:35 AM

I see a different divide in OP -- the ultra-liberal leadership and everyone else. I moved here and was always considered a left-leaning moderate, but in comparison to the vocal leaders here in OP, I've been called a "Tea Partier" and "Rush Limbaugh." If you question a tax increase, ask about a Village budget, believe that our schools should be for OP residents only, or seek understanding on the Comcast building you will be branded. The lack of tolerance for diverse views is sad and disturbing

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 10:33 AM

There are two divides in OP; the Continental Divide and the TIF District Divide. Both have been manipulated to change the flow of order. The reversal of the Chicago River changed water flow east of the 'Oak Park Spit' from ending in the great basin leading to the North Atlantic to one leading to the Gulf of Mexico. In similar fashion, the TIF Districts reversed the flow of property taxes from ending in the budgets of school districts to one leading to Madison St. and DTOP.

Flora & Fauna from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:12 AM

The presence of the Oak Park Conservatory on Garfield single-handedly trumps any and all alleged claims of cultural superiority by anyone or anything north of the Green Line. Come south, enter and walk among the plants, birds, fish, etc..sit outside in the new garden and let your elitism wash away.

Clash from OP  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 6:06 AM

Just ask yourself if the Interfaith-Perry Vietti housing project slated to go up on Madison St. would ever have been a consideration anywhere in North Oak Park. It wouldn't....because it would clash with all of the brick pavers!

Rez  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 12:49 AM

Actaully, it's not the NSEW divide, it's the north-west and the rest.

Op guy  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 12:48 AM

60302, probably because you have hundreds of thousands of drivers driving on 290 seeing the large Volvo tower getting advertised to. What better place to put a car dealer ship other than where all your potential customers can see you?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2012 11:30 PM

Oh damn, now on top of being an OP newbie and nimby, I am culturally deprived. When I decided to buy a house in OP, I was living downtown in the Forest Apt on Lake. I moved south of Madison because I thought it must be Uptown. A New Yorker always thinks Uptown is the classy place to live.

60302  

Posted: March 27th, 2012 11:09 PM

Starbucks has no love for 60304 either.

60302  

Posted: March 27th, 2012 10:54 PM

How in the heck did a Volvo dealership set up shop south of the Ike? Strange indeed.

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